Summer Time Gifts

By Brigitte Shipman | July 30, 2021. | Autism, Mother Guide, Summer, Life Lessons

Today in Arkansas, it is extremely hot with heat advisories for our area of the state. As I was outside this morning watering my flowers, I had a memory of my son Joseph that came up. 

Our summers were both challenging and filled with freedom when Joseph had his summers off from school. We could sleep in, which seldom happened, but at least the option was there. We would play and go see things that I knew he would enjoy. We loved to visit family and friends and go to the library and bookstore, which was one of his favorite things to do.  

The challenge was to keep Joseph entertained and to fill the time with teaching moments that I had with my son. In those days, we did not have insurance that paid for any therapies or programs that I could enroll Joseph in, so it was me. Thankfully, I was able to stay home with both of my children until my youngest started school. I spent my time researching, reading, and applying anything that we could do that I believed would help him and not hurt him. 

Swimming lessons was one of the many activities that I enrolled Joseph in that he was happy to participate in. My niece was eight months younger than my son, so my sister and I enrolled our kids in many of the same activities. 

My niece is neurotypical which was a positive for Joseph because he had a playmate who looked out for him. My niece understood that Joseph was different but as most children, she did not put a lot of thought into it. It was her cousin and that was all she knew, so she played and participated like most of the children in their swim class. 

We faithfully were at each beginner's swim lesson. The instructor was a young lady who was also a teacher. She taught swimming lessons for extra money and was excellent with the kids. At the end of the class lessons, each child received a certificate whether they passed or failed. My niece passed and Joseph did not. He seemed okay with the news so we went on and got some ice cream to celebrate both of their achievements. 

The next summer with the same teacher, we enrolled again at the beginners level. My niece now went at a different time because she had advanced to the intermediate level. I explained this to Joseph and although he missed his cousin, he gave his best effort each lesson.

When we came to the end of the session lessons, his teacher handed each child a certificate. Once again, Joseph did not pass. He kept a great attitude but this time I could tell he was disappointed. 

We continued this for three more summers. When we finished his fifth summer of beginner-level swim lessons, his teachers passed out the certificates to each child and this time Joseph passed. I can still feel the deep emotions of watching his smile with great pride. He was so proud of himself and both his teacher and I became very emotional. He did it!

Joseph who is now 29 is a much better swimmer than I am. He swims like a fish with grace and beautiful strokes that I envy. This is one of many examples that I have about staying true to yourself. Yes, it is hard and frustrating especially when we compare our children to the others who are flying by our children without a great deal of effort. 

What I have personally learned is that Joseph will get to where he is going in his own personal time. It may not be when everyone says he should be there but he will get there. If I could have had a crystal ball and seen how my son has thrived, I believe I would have lived without the constant stress that I lived in. 

The message I want to offer you is to enjoy your child exactly where they are at, and know they will get where they are going in their own beautiful space and time. If this is difficult, then I feel you because I have been there. My best advice to offer you all is to heal yourself and enjoy each moment, even the tough ones. These moments will pass and the next thing you know, the kids will be grown.

Those summers that I spent with my son with both the challenges and the school break freedom are some of the memories that I cherish the most in my life. For now, put your worries to the side and enjoy your days. Hopefully, with your toes in the sand.

Autism Guide Brigitte Shipman Coach

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